The Right of Women to Divorce

Egypt's Dar Al-Ifta

The Right of Women to Divorce

The Right of Women to Divorce

Just as Islam gives women the right to choose her husband, it gives her the option to break off a marriage if matters worsen between them and there is no possibility of reconciliation. One of the erroneous conceptions about Islam is that men alone are given the prerogative to end a marriage. However, this is simply not true.

This prerogative may be also had by the woman in several guises. For one, she has complete freedom to stipulate into her marriage contract the right to divorce, and act upon that agreement should differences between the two become irreconcilable. In such a case, she retains her full complement of related rights just as a man would if he divorced her. Secondly, she may request an official separation from him on the basis of serious harm. If this turns out to be true, an Islamic judge may affect a separation between the spouses. In this case, too, she will be entitled to her full complement of related rights. Finally, she may also initiate a khul‘ divorce. In this case alone she will be entitled to a separation, but not some of the financial and other rights specified in the marriage contract, because of the lack of a demonstrable reason for ending the marriage.

Because she has initiated the proceedings, she will have to forfeit some of her entitlements. Many religious texts indicate the free choice of women when it comes to separation from their husbands. An example is that which is related by Ibn Abbas [who said], “Barira’s husband was a slave called Mughith; it is as if I can see him now following after her weeping, the tears moistening his beard. The Prophet told Abbas, ‘O Abbas, do you not marvel at the love of Mughith for Barira and the dislike of Barira for Mughith?’ So the Prophet said to her, ‘Would you take him back?’ She said, ‘O Messenger of God, are you commanding me?’ He said, ‘I only intercede.’ She said, ‘I have no need for him.’”1 When she understood that his words were not a command, but rather advice, she chose to leave him since that was her right after becoming free.2

The wife of Thabit ibn Qays came to the Prophet and said, “O Messenger of God, there is none more steadfast than Thabit when it comes to religion and morals, but I do not love him.” He said, “Will you return his garden to him?” She said, “Yes,” and gave him back his garden and his and he separated from her. This is a brief clarification of the issue of women choosing their husbands and having their desires respected if they want to leave them. According to this it is impermissible for a father, or anyone else for that matter, to force his son or daughter to marry someone they do not like; also women can end marriage in the ways mentioned.


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